Why Parents Support YES on 1240: The Washington Public Charter Schools Initiative

Jul 25, 2012 | News, Opinion

As a parent of children who attend our public schools, I was glad to sign the petition to place Initiative 1240 on the November ballot, and I support a YES vote. Here’s why.

Initiative 1240, the Washington Public Charter Schools Initiative proposed for the November ballot, is an important measure for Washington parents, students and teachers that will finally bring the option of high performing public charter schools to our state.

Parents and students in 41 other states have the option of public charter schools as part of the public education system, and the states that have the best charter school laws are getting the best results in improving academic outcomes for many students through public charter schools.

Charter schools are independently managed public schools operated by qualified nonprofit organizations that are authorized and overseen by either a state charter school commission or by local school boards. Public charter schools are free and open to all students, and subject to the same academic requirements as traditional public schools.

Initiative 1240 will allow up to 40 public charter schools to be authorized in Washington over a five-year period. These schools will be funded based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools are. Not one penny is diverted from our public school system or from our students. It’s simple – the money follows the child, just as it would if a child transferred from one traditional public school to another. Just as it should.

Public charter schools authorized under Initiative 1240 are subject to strict accountability requirements and performance reviews, and teachers in public charter schools are held to the same certification requirements as teachers in traditional public schools.

And that’s not all – under Initiative 1240, if a public charter school is not performing, it will be shut down.

Public charter schools are required to comply with all the same laws and regulations related to civil rights, parents’ rights, health and safety, and non-discrimination that govern traditional public schools. But public charter schools are free from certain other regulations so they have more flexibility in setting curriculum, budgeting, hiring and firing teachers and staff, and providing more customized learning experiences to meet the individual needs of their students.

As a parent, I want more public school options available so that I can choose the best learning environment for my children. Studies across the country show that charter schools in many states are achieving outstanding results. The results are particularly impressive for urban, minority and low-income student populations – students who were struggling and being left behind in traditional public schools. We should learn from these successes in other states and allow the option of high performing public charter schools in Washington to help students who aren’t succeeding in our existing public schools.

So as a parent, I’m asking that when you see someone in your neighborhood with a petition for I-1240, please sign it. As the Seattle Times recently wrote in a positive editorial, it is once again time voters in Washington state to have a meaningful discussion about public charter schools. The status quo in our public schools works for some of our children but it is failing too many others.

Please join me in supporting YES on 1240.

Flor Alarcon is an education advocate and the parent of three children who have all attended Seattle Public Schools. She is also co-Chair of Latino City Employees, and co-Chair of Mujeres of the Northwest.